An examination of the values that motivated historical actors is an important part of understanding history. I think one of the most effective elements of Choices materials is the role play that calls on students to first observe the values of historical actors, and then to articulate the values that underlie their proposed option for a contested international issue.
I use the values activity in the Shifting Sands: Balancing U.S. Interests in the Middle East unit in my semester long International Relations class. I first elicit from students (10th-12th graders) the values that they subscribe to and that they think should ideally underlie their own policy option for how the U.S. should interact with the Middle East.
After we discuss the concept of values and identify the values inherent in the four policy options that students are assigned to role play, they are ready to articulate the values that they would draw on to create their own U.S. policy towards the Middle East. In creating their own option, they must demonstrate their understanding of the history of U.S. relations with countries in the Middle East. This year students wrote a U.S. policy towards Libya, just as the U.S. was deciding on its level of involvement in this new regional flare up.
With all of the Choices units I’ve used, students have always commented that they learn more when they have to defend an option they normally wouldn’t support. This makes students more aware of the notion of competing perspectives and points of view in creating policy.
In sum, Choices materials help cultivate a habit of value-based decision making that’s based on a reflection of the values of historical actors, but also forces students’ self reflection on their own values.
How do you use the Values Activity found in many Choices units? What do your students say about the activity?
Posted by guest blogger Kevin Conlon, Francis Parker School, Chicago